BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
POLICE in Chitungwiza blocked a multi-stakeholders Press conference yesterday, saying it was an unsanctioned political gathering.
The Press conference set for Chitungwiza Community Development Network (CCDN) offices at Socialite Complex in Makoni was meant to highlight service delivery issues in the town.
Police stopped the event at the 11th hour, saying the organisers had not sought clearance.
They later summoned CCDN programmes manager Admire Mutiza, Chitungwiza Pastors Fraternal chairperson Bishop Jonathan Masamba and the event coordinator Brighton Mazhindu for questioning.
In an interview with NewsDay, Mazhindu, who is also the Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents and Ratepayers Association secretary criticised the police for stopping the Press conference.
“Police said we can’t do the Press conference without clearance. It claimed that the subject was political since it was about post by-elections and governance in Chitungwiza Municipality,” he said.
“The decision was not fair. It was not even a meeting. We only sought to read a Press statement to journalists who were just less than 10. It was not fair at all.”
Mazhindu said stakeholders were worried that councillors had failed to hold a full council meeting for the past three months, crippling operations in Chitungwiza.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was unaware of the incident when contacted for comment.
“It depends on the circumstances, but I am not aware of the Chitungwiza issue which you are talking about,” he said.
Other stakeholders, who had gathered for the Press conference, include Zimbabwe Old People’s Association and the Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association representatives.
Chitungwiza Municipality owes its health workers just over $14 million in outstanding salaries.
Chitungwiza and Harare council health workers were transferred to government payroll when the respective local authorities were failing to pay salaries.
Council spokesperson Lovemore Meya confirmed that the local authority was struggling to clear salary arrears.
“It is an open secret that we are facing cashflow challenges. That is why they were moved to the government payroll,” he said.
“Figures of amounts owed to health staff transferred to government are as follows: Nurses ($11 316 786,06), environmental health technicians ($2 199 699,08) and $799 749,77 for general hands.”
Chitungwiza Municipal Workers Union president Ephraim Katsina said: “We will not rest until the council has made a commitment to pay the arrears because they are long overdue. The people are suffering and we would like the council to fulfil its obligation. The arrears must be paid using the prevailing bank rate because some arrears were in United States dollars,” Katsina said.
The local authority is owed over $700 million by ratepayers. Council authorities claimed that this was crippling service delivery